Did you recently buy a pair of hermit crabs? Perhaps you even bought a small group of them.
It’s common for people to keep these exotic pets in small groups. Hermit crabs are social creatures that should get along well with each other.
So long as the habitat is big enough, you won’t encounter too many problems. It’s also important to keep multiple shells of the same size in the tank to keep fighting to a minimum, of course.
Have you started wondering whether your hermit crabs are male or female? It’s not something that most people are going to be able to tell just by looking at the pets.
How can you tell male and female hermit crabs apart? Is there an easy technique that will allow you to determine the sex of your pet hermit crabs?
Keep reading to learn exactly what you need to do. It won’t matter too much which sex your hermit crab happens to be, but it should be interesting to know nonetheless.
How to Tell Hermit Crab Gender
Determining the gender of hermit crabs doesn’t take too much effort. It isn’t immediately apparent by taking a cursory glance at hermit crabs, but you can figure it out by looking at the underside of the crab to find the genitalia.
Finding the Gonopores
When looking at the underside of the crab, it’s important to look for a set of gonopores. Gonopores look like two little dots, and they should be fairly apparent.
You should find the gonopores by the back of the hermit crab’s legs that are close to the abdomen. Once you’re able to look at the underside of the crab, you can find the gonopores with relative ease.
Only female hermit crabs have gonopores. So if the gonopores are present, the hermit crab in question is certainly female.
The only problem with this method is that looking at the underside of the crab isn’t easy. Hermit crabs don’t exactly like to come out of their shells all that often.
Since hermit crabs are vulnerable outside of their shells, it makes sense that they wouldn’t be keen to expose themselves to harm. Trying to force a hermit crab out of its shell can cause it serious harm, too.
It’s best to wait until the hermit crab comes out on its own. Then you need to safely check the underside of the crab to look for the gonopores.
Looking for the genitalia isn’t difficult, and it won’t take long once you have the opportunity. This is the most common way to identify the gender of hermit crabs, but there are some other methods that you should learn about as well.
Males Have More Body Hair
It’s said that male hermit crabs have much more body hair than females. If you examine the hermit crabs closely, this might help you to have a good idea of which gender the hermit crab belongs to.
Female hermit crabs are supposed to have very little hair on their bodies. They might have some, but they won’t have a lot of body hair.
Males are a completely different story. Male hermit crabs are often covered in tiny hairs.
This is one of the best ways to take a guess when buying hermit crabs at a pet store. If you see that a hermit crab has many hairs on its body, there’s a good chance that it’s a male hermit crab.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a 100% guaranteed way to determine the sex of hermit crabs. It’s just a way to get a good idea of the likelihood that a hermit crab is male or female.
You Often Can’t Tell the Gender of Hermit Crabs At Pet Stores
When going to a pet store, it’s not always going to be easy to tell the gender of the hermit crabs that you’re looking at. It’s common for pet store workers to not know how to check their gender.
Even if they do know how, it’s not something that the workers have the time to do. Coaxing a hermit crab out of its shell to check the underside is not practical in a retail setting.
Generally, the workers will just tell you that it’ll come down to luck. If you specifically want to buy a male or female hermit crab, there isn’t much you can do but hope.
You have a 50/50 chance of getting a male or a female crab. Since you’re supposed to buy these pets in pairs or small groups, you might wind up getting a mixture of male and female crabs.
Since you won’t be able to tell the gender when looking at pet store hermit crabs, it’s going to be wise to not worry about it too much. The gender of the crab shouldn’t matter too much when it comes to keeping it as a pet anyway.
Hermit Crabs Don’t Breed in Captivity
You should know that you can’t breed hermit crabs. Hermit crabs cannot breed in captivity.
This isn’t possible for them because hermit crab breeding rituals involve the ocean. They live around beaches and the water plays a huge role in breeding.
Male and female hermit crabs mate on the shore, and the female hermit crab will release its eggs into the water. The baby hermit crabs spend the earliest parts of their life in the water.
Eventually, the baby hermit crabs develop. Even land hermit crabs spend the early stages of life in the water.
It isn’t until the crab develops that it’ll become a true land hermit crab. As you can tell, this situation isn’t something that you can replicate in captivity.
So if your intention was to breed hermit crabs by getting a male and a female together, it’s important to know that this isn’t possible. Now that you understand what hermit crab breeding entails, it’ll be easier to understand why hermit crabs don’t breed in captivity.
You should have a much better idea of how to differentiate between male and female hermit crabs now. It isn’t necessarily simple to tell the crabs apart unless you look for genitalia.
Since hermit crabs stay in their shells most of the time, it isn’t convenient to look for the genitalia. This doesn’t mean that you won’t get an opportunity to do so at some point, though.
Don’t try to force your pet out of its shell. If you do this, it’s very likely that you’ll injure the crab, and you could even wind up accidentally killing it.
You should wait until the hermit crab comes out on its own. Then you can check the underside to see if you can spot the gonopores.
If you see them, this tells you that the hermit crab in question is a female. Hermit crabs that do not possess gonopores are male.
Another way to get an idea of whether a hermit crab is male or female is to look at the body hair. Generally, male hermit crabs have more body hair than females.
This isn’t a foolproof way of determining the sex of a hermit crab. Even so, it might be the best way to guess the gender of a hermit crab when at a pet store.
You can try looking at the hermit crab closely to see if it has a lot of body hair. The hairy ones will have a good chance of being male while the ones with very little body hair are likely to be female.
Since hermit crabs don’t breed in captivity, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about the gender of hermit crabs. So don’t worry if you can’t get both a male and a female hermit crab.
It’s fine to keep male hermit crabs together in a tank. The same goes for females.
Simply meet their basic care needs, and all will be well.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.